TOKYO - Toyota Motor Corp. last week unveiled a budget-priced subcompact for the Japan market that is expected to be the prototype for the company's new youth-oriented Scion line in the United States.
Officially, Toyota has no plans to export the car, the ist. But a spinoff, probably with a longer body and a slightly bigger engine, likely will be the kickoff car for the U.S. sales channel.
The ist, pronounced "east," is powered by either a 1.3- or 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and is priced from ¥1.18 million, or about $9,200. Toyota aims to sell 7,000 a month.
A wide front grill and flared wheel arches offer sport-utility styling cues, while numerous storage bins inside give the five-door, four-seat car a practical feel. The instrument panel gathers the displays, gauges and controls high on the center console. No dials or displays are directly in front of the driver.
An illuminated storage compartment in the center cluster has a clear front cover, with an amber glow from within lighting the contents. Amber is the standard color, but as an option, buyers can add matching lighting in one of eight colors to the storage bin and the two front cupholders. A bottle of mineral water thus takes on, say, a bluish glow. Exterior colors are not as vibrant. Of the eight exterior colors offered, five are shades of black, white, silver or beige.
The name is derived from the suffix "ist," as in stylist or artist. This is to indicate "someone who creates or performs," says Toyota. But the car's ads play off the name's letters to emphasize the ist's position as a young person's car with the tag line, "For your 1st." A top-of-the-line 1.5S L-edition has a rear spoiler, dark-tinted windows, sound-tuned exhaust and discharge headlights. It comes with a six-speaker sound system with digital signal processor fitted integrated compact disc/minidisc and radio.